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How Older Adults Can Boost Psychological Well-Being

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Researchers from Finland have determined that older adults who pump iron can build more than muscle: Resis­tance training can strengthen their outlook on life. The scientists say frequency is an important variable in maximizing benefits.

In this 9-month study, 106 subjects aged 65–75 were assigned to one of three resistance training groups or a nonexercising control group. All participants in the exercise groups completed two supervised strength training sessions per week for the first 3 months. For the remainder of the study, they exercised once per week, twice per week or three times per week. Each session lasted 1 hour and included a 10-minute warmup and eight or nine exercises for different muscle groups.

The researchers measured subjects’ environmental quality of life, sense of coherence and depressive symptoms throughout the 9 months. Environmental quality of life is described as satisfaction with one’s environment, safety, and ability to access certain services (like leisure activities and transportation). Sense of coherence involves three components—comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness—and how much people perceive themselves as capable of creating these in their life.

At the 3-month mark, all exercise groups reported improvements in environmental quality of life and depressive scores. After this point, however, reports began to shift. Between the 3- and 9-month mark, quality of life declined among the once-per-week group. In the twice-per-week group, this measure continued to improve compared with other groups. Moreover, sense of coherence also improved in the twice-per-week group compared with controls and those who trained three times per week. During that same time frame, depressive scores decreased among all subjects except those in the once-per-week group.

“In conclusion, the key observation of this study is that, in addition to well-known physical benefits for aged populations, resistance training is beneficial for environmental quality of life and sense of coherence,” the authors wrote.

The study appeared in Quality of Life Research (2017; doi.org/10.1007/s11136-017-1733-z).

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor, and IDEA's director of event programming.

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